Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms by Richard Fortey

87%

12 Critic Reviews

A leading natural scientist’s search for animals and plants that have survived nearly unchanged for millions of years...Informative, engrossing and delightful.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

From one of the world’s leading natural scientists and the acclaimed author of Trilobite!, Life: A Natural History of Four Billion Years of Life on Earth and Dry Storeroom No. 1 comes a fascinating chronicle of life’s history told not through the fossil record but through the stories of organisms that have survived, almost unchanged, throughout time. Evolution, it seems, has not completely obliterated its tracks as more advanced organisms have evolved; the history of life on earth is far older—and odder—than many of us realize.
 
Scattered across the globe, these remarkable plants and animals continue to mark seminal events in geological time. From a moonlit beach in Delaware, where the hardy horseshoe crab shuffles its way to a frenzy of mass mating just as it did 450 million years ago, to the dense rainforests of New Zealand, where the elusive, unprepossessing velvet worm has burrowed deep into rotting timber since before the breakup of the ancient supercontinent, to a stretch of Australian coastline with stromatolite formations that bear witness to the Precambrian dawn, the existence of these survivors offers us a tantalizing glimpse of pivotal points in evolutionary history. These are not “living fossils” but rather a handful of tenacious creatures of days long gone.
 
Written in buoyant, sparkling prose, Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms is a marvelously captivating exploration of the world’s old-timers combining the very best of science writing with an explorer’s sense of adventure and wonder.
 

About Richard Fortey

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Richard Fortey is a senior paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London. Life was short-listed for the Rh„¢ne-Poulenc Prize in 1998, Trilobite! was short-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize in 2001, and The Hidden Landscape was awarded the Natural World Book of the Year in 1993. He was awarded the Lewis Thomas Prize for science writing by Rockefeller University in 2004. He was Collier Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Bristol in 2002 and is now a Fellow of the Royal Society. He lives in London.
 
Published April 10, 2012 by Knopf. 352 pages
Genres: Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math, Professional & Technical, Sports & Outdoors. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms
All: 12 | Positive: 11 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Excellent
on Feb 13 2012

A leading natural scientist’s search for animals and plants that have survived nearly unchanged for millions of years...Informative, engrossing and delightful.

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NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Constance Casey on May 18 2012

Whether it’s Yellowstone or Newfoundland or China, Fortey vividly describes the many places he goes.

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NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Dwight Garner on Apr 12 2012

Yet his book is not only well built and witty but emotionally profound too. It’s the work of a survivor appraising other survivors.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
Reviewed by PW on Feb 13 2012

Despite the odd title, even those squeamish about worms will find Fortey’s enthusiastic excavations charming.

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Wall Street Journal

Excellent
Reviewed by Wall Street Journal on Apr 14 2012

Amazingly, none of this feels repetitive. With each book Mr. Fortey continues to put together what he once described as his "jigsaw puzzle fabricated of scraps and dreams," rearranging the pieces in light of new published research and his own evolving thoughts.

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Boston.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Christina Thompson on Apr 15 2012

In a pitch to the 10-year-old fossil-collector trapped inside us all, Fortey cheerfully exhorts us to keep looking, for “[t]here is still so much to learn.”

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Yakima Herald

Excellent
Reviewed by Adam Jones on Apr 18 2012

I'm sure science nuts have this book on their radar; it was previously published in England, and has garnered some deservedly great reviews. However, its technical nature shouldn't discourage casual readers. It's one of those rare, thoroughly enjoyable books on a serious subject.

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Nonsuch Book

Good
Reviewed by book lust on Apr 14 2012

Flutters. Bewitching. Soon to be mine.

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Physics Database

Good
Reviewed by Physics Database on Apr 22 2012

Rischard Fortey uses his charisma and extensive knowledge of biology and evolution to tell the great story of live throughout the history of our planet. In conclusion, I would highly recommend this one to all who have an interest in biology.

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Sandwalk

Below average
Reviewed by Laurence Moran on Apr 15 2012

I might be interested in a lengthy discussion about the different between natural selection and random genetic drift and/or a discussion about the kinds of morphological changes that have been observed recently among the four living species of horseshoe crabs but I doubt that would be in Fortey's book.

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Lawrence Millman

Good
Reviewed by Lawrence Millman on Apr 02 2012

Elegantly written and often very funny, this book provides an excellent complement to Piotr Naskrecki’s primarily photographic work Relics

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Knopf Doubleday

Good
Reviewed by Knopf Doubleday on Apr 01 2012

Written in buoyant, sparkling prose, Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms is a marvelously captivating exploration of the world’s old-timers combining the very best of science writing with an explorer’s sense of adventure and wonder.

Read Full Review of Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms

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